A dilemma

>> Saturday, June 28, 2008

We have a minor dilemma now that we've given up HFCS foods. Our daughter Emma needs to take a multivitamin with iron in it because she is slightly anemic. We tried the liquid kind, but it turned her teeth an oh so lovely shade of gray. We were given the ok to give our not quite 2 yr old half of a chewable Flintstones vitamin instead. That was great for about a week, and then the novelty of chewing up a vitamin just like her big brother wore off. We're at the point now where she will take her vitamin if I crush it up and hide it in some chocolate syrup. It's the only way that I can get her to take it without a fight. She's extremely finicky, but she's taken it mixed in chocolate syrup every time without a fuss. You can still taste the vitamin, but the flavor is muted by the extreme sugary-chocolate flavor.

What's the dilemma? Well, Hershey's chocolate syrup is LOADED with HFCS! So, do I search (in vain, so far) for a HFCS-free chocolate syrup or try to find a recipe for chocolate syrup to substitute for Hershey's syrup? Or do I not rock the boat and stick with the magical (but HFCS containing) Hershey's syrup?


Stephens Cocoa retraction

>> Friday, June 27, 2008

I misread the label! I am very happy to report that while Stephen's Cocoa does use corn syrup solids and other ingredients that are not the healthiest, it does NOT use HFCS! Yay!

So, enjoy your Stephens Cocoa, Rachel! (And good eyes for seeing the cocoa in the picture.)


All corn syrups are not created equally

>> Thursday, June 26, 2008

I know a lot of people who avoid processed foods because they want to eat more naturally, and I understand why they make that choice. It's natural to want to understand what your food is made of. But, I have to say, the processing of processed food doesn't bother me so much. I'm not saying that everything that is processed is fine - clearly since we're giving up HFCS - but I don't think that it's all evil either. I have concerns about preservatives and food dyes and various other things, but in general I still think that there is a time and a place for certain processed foods. That said, we are trying to move away from processed foods in general if for no other reason than they tend to be loaded with sugar and bad fats (even the organic versions), and I really want better for my children.

That brings me to corn syrup. If you want to give up all processed foods, then corn syrup has got to go because there is nothing "natural" about it - except that its molecules started in a kernel of corn. (Look for more details on the hows and whys of corn syrup and HFCS in future posts.) For the present, we're not giving up corn syrup. It doesn't ring my alarm bells the way HFCS does. Corn syrup is composed mainly of glucose (or dextrose, if you'd rather call it that) with no fructose and is not quite as sweet as table sugar (otherwise known as sucrose - a disaccharide of glucose and fructose). And while it's probably wise to limit consumption of corn syrup because too much sugar is just not what a body needs, glucose is processed quite nicely by your body. So, for now, plain ole corn syrup stays.

I don't use corn syrup much in my cooking. The one place time that it does get used is to make pecan pie, and that is a rare treat around here. I did come across something that I found unusual when cleaning out my pantry of HFCS items the other day, though. Light corn syrup (and light refers to it's clear color, not it's caloric content) is a mixture of corn syrup, HFCS, salt, and vanilla. Dark corn syrup, on the other hand, has no HFCS in it! It does have an ingredient called "refiners syrup," which for those interested is a type of molasses and is a byproduct of the cane (or beet) sugar industry. So, I guess we can still have the occasional treat of pecan pie made with dark corn syrup. Yay!


A week of transition

>> Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We're using this week to transition to HFCS-free foods. We plan to use up some of the perishable and open HFCS containing foods that we already have and start the search for suitable replacements. I'm quite certain that we'll be able to find replacements for pretty much everything, the question is at what cost? I hope that we'll be able to come across reasonably priced items that taste just as good as the HFCS containing ones.

First step - clean out the pantry and fridge. It wasn't as bad as I had feared, but we still had a lot of stuff with HFCS in it. You can see the fruit of our clean-out labor below:
I think that we'll be ok with most of our loses, but there were a couple of things that hit us hard. Like Heinz ketchup. My husband, in particular, has a love affair with Heinz ketchup. The man puts it on everything, and he's always been very insistent on Heinz having the best flavor. But, as a ketchup fiend, I think that he's also kind of looking forward to taste testing different ketchups to find a good - and affordable - one.

There were also foods that I just KNEW had HFCS in it that didn't - like Jet-Puffed marshmallows. Hooray! I know, I know. They're just a big ole puff of unhealthy sugar, but it made this sugar junkie's heart happy to know that I could still make things with marshmallows.

Next step, start the search for tasty replacements. I also hope to start trying recipes to replace some of our processed snacks with homemade ones, but that might have to wait a week or 2. Check back for product reviews and recipes!


Surprising HFCS food of the week

>> Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm going to attempt to post a food with HFCS that surprised me each week. I might get lazy sometimes and include some not so surprising foods, too.

This week's winner is.... TONIC WATER! When I think of tonic water, I think of quinine, gin, and of course, high fructose corn syrup - NOT! I was floored when I learned that it's a very common ingredient of tonic water. The Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness says that tonic water is " Carbonated water flavored with quinine and a sweetener like sugar, high fructose corn syrup or low-calorie sweetener. Quinine, from the bark of the cinchona tree, is used as the base flavor in most bitters." Who knew?

It's apparently pretty darn hard to find tonic water without HFCS in it. There are a few brands out there that don't have HFCS in it for you hardcore gin and tonic drinkers - Q Tonic, Whole Foods 365 brand, and Fever Tree are a few brands that I came across, and I read that some of the diet tonic waters are HFCS free (but taste terrible).

Thanks, Dani, for the suggestion of a surprising HFCS containing food of the week post. And thanks to Holly for mentioning HFCS in tonic water.


In the beginning

High fructose corn syrup. It's seemingly EVERYWHERE. It's never really bothered me until recently. I assumed that it was no biggie because it IS fructose (ok, it isn't just fructose, but fructose is typically the part that gets everyone all riled) and isn't fructose in fruit? Good enough for me! But recently, I've started to pay attention to all of the different foods that high fructose corn syrup is in, and I've started educating myself on the stuff.

Rather than reinvent the wheel (I'll save that for a future post - LOL), here's a website with several articles that talk about HFCS - and they're not all bashing the stuff either: http://www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/highfructose.html . Clearly, the jury is still out on whether HFCS is evil or not, but there are unknowns and potential problems with all of that fructose consumption that make me ill at ease. This quote (after reading about how fructose is processed in your body differently than glucose) resonated with me:

"One of the issues is the ease with which you can consume this stuff," says Carol Porter, director of nutrition and food services at UC San Francisco. "It's not that fructose itself is so bad, but they put it in so much food that you consume so much of it without knowing it."

So, we're making the leap. This processed food eating family is giving up HFCS! We'll all still get it other places - the kids have processed snacks with HFCS at school and friend's houses, and we'll still eat out at restaurants - but not at home. At the very least, our diets should improve as we discover healthier substitutes for the many, many items that have HFCS in our current food repretoire.

This isn't going to be easy, though! I have taken on some BIG food challenges before - giving up soy, dairy, wheat, egg, and a few other little things so that I could continue to breastfeed my children as they outgrew food allergies - but those were different. I could see an end to it. I mean, I wasn't going to breastfeed them forever, you know? This is pretty much a forever change for us, which makes it a bigger mental hurdle for me.

Plus, I hate to admit it, but we are processed food junkies. I'm pretty good about making our meals from scratch (well, at least dinner), but snacks and lunch are more often than not some prepared meal from a box or bag. It's just so easy! I hope to find processed foods without HFCS, but I also hope to find healthy, tasty recipes that we can make at home to replace some of our processed food. I hope that our diet will ultimately be healthier for these changes.

So, join us on our journey! I don't think that this is going to be easy for us - especially for this self proclaimed sugar junkie.


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